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date: 02 December 2022

The Congo Warslocked

The Congo Warslocked

  • Filip ReyntjensFilip ReyntjensEmeritus Professor of Law and Politics, University of Antwerp


The successive Congo wars (1996–1997; 1998–2003) involved many countries of the region and myriad governmental armies and nonstate armed groups. They were, to a large extent, a spillover from the 1990–1994 Rwandan civil war and the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. 1.5 million people who fled the country in the wake of the Rwanda Patriotic Front’s military victory settled in Zaire just across the border, and refugee-warriors among them threatened the new regime in place in Kigali. Uganda, Burundi, and Angola were also attacked by insurgent groups operating, at least in part, from Zaire. This led to a regional alliance in support of a Zairean rebel movement that toppled the Mobutu regime in May 1997. The problems at the origin of the first war were not settled with the installation of Laurent Kabila as the new president of what became the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda, followed by Uganda, launched a new war in August 1998, but this was not a remake of the first. As all actors reasoned in terms of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” alliances shifted dramatically and erstwhile friends became enemies. Hostility between Rwanda and Uganda persists up to today. This led to a military stalemate and eventually to a fragile peace deal in 2003. However, the main factors behind the wars have not disappeared, namely the weakness of the Congolese state and the territorial extension of neighboring countries’ civil wars and insurgencies. Eastern DRC remains unstable and widespread violence continuous to claim many civilian lives.


  • Central Africa

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